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Mutiny on the Migraine

June 18, 2012

Descendants of “The Mutiny on the Bounty” are providing new clues to the genetics of migraine headaches.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Historical migraines…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The inhabitants of Norfolk Island in the south Pacific are primarily descended from the few survivors of the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty and the Polynesian women they married. A quarter of Norfolk Islanders today suffer from migraine headaches, more than twice the rate of mainlanders. Their genetic isolation and genealogical records going all the way back to the mutiny make them an ideal population for studying migraine genetics. With their help, a team of researchers has now confirmed that 2 genes on the x chromosome are involved in the disorder. Molecular geneticist Lyn Griffiths of Australia’s Griffith University says one of the genes is involved in regulating levels of iron in the brain and central nervous system.

LYN GRIFFITHS (Griffith University):

So it could be that this is a trigger or a potential cause of migraine.

HIRSHON:

She says discovery could help lead to better treatments for migraines. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

The mutineers turning Lt . Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from HMAV Bounty on 29 April 1789 (Robert Dodd/National Maritime Museum)

Descendants of the Mutiny on the Bounty and their wives re-settled to Norfolk Island in the 1850s. (Wikemedia Commons/thinboyfatter)